Sanaa Iraqui thinks back to her younger days in her Moroccan homeland, where she served as a family caregiver.

“I took care of my father, who was paralyzed from the waist down. It was definitely challenging, being in that position, especially for a daughter,” said Sanaa, now a CAREGiver of the Month for Home Instead® of Clearwater, an award-winning franchise owned by Julie Castle. Director of CAREGiver Services JC Crady announced Sanaa’s honor in July 2021, 15 months after Sanaa joined Home Instead.

“The family caregiving experience made me a stronger person. Because of what I experienced, I’m able to provide care to each of my clients as if they were my own family. Because, at the end of the day, each client is someone’s parent, child, friend and family member.”

For Sanaa, taking care of family members – young or old – is engrained in her soul because three generations of family members were usually living under one roof in Morocco. “I am a product of my culture and religious beliefs. We didn’t let the seniors go to a nursing home,” Sanaa explained.

She added: “By learning in my country how to take care of my parents and other family, it prepared me to take care of others. As much as I knew how to help people when I left Morocco, it was still a big step for me to learn the American culture, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 18 years. The keys are to remain patient, make the commitment to stay with the clients, get to know them and learn what they need and want.”

Working for the Home Instead franchise that serves Pinellas County isn’t Sanaa’s first venture into professional senior care. “I was a home health aide and also worked in New England hospitals. As far as consistent one-on-one care goes, I used to be a live-in caregiver for three years, starting in 2010, for a family friend, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I loved the companionship that my clients and I shared,” Sanaa recalled.

Fast-forward to 2020, when a family member saw that Sanaa again was eager to use her big heart to assist others but was wondering how to do it. “My daughter knew how badly I wanted to become a senior-care professional, and she went to a job fair at her school and found Home Instead, and it was perfect,” said Sanaa, who joined Home Instead in April 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was getting under way. Undaunted, Sanaa dived into her work.

In addition to her strong companionship skills, Sanaa provides safety assurance, meal preparation, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and transportation and errands while working for the Home Instead franchise.

Sanaa and other Home Instead CAREGivers offer personal assistance with eating, grooming, dressing, bathing, incontinence care, dementia support, cognitive impairment, hospice support and mobility assistance. By expertly doing so, CAREGivers not only assist their Home Instead clients, but help their families eliminate worry, reduce stress and re-establish personal freedom.

To build on their knowledge and experience, Sanaa and other CAREGivers are offered the opportunity to increase their dementia-care skills by taking part in the Home Instead network’s one-of-a-kind training protocol. Home Instead’s Person-Centered Care Training for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias is recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association® for incorporating the evidence-based dementia-care practice recommendations in these topic areas: Alzheimer’s and dementia, person-centered care, assessment and care planning, activities of daily living, and behaviors and communication.

“My clients definitely are the favorite part of my Home Instead job. I love being able to be there for them and providing them with the absolute best care I know they deserve. I treat them just as I would treat my own family. I love providing them companionship. It is precious to see the way their facial expressions and mood lighten up when they have somebody around them who truly cares for them and gives them the time of day. Honestly, they have the same effect on me – I love their companionship. I couldn’t imagine working in a more perfect position,” Sanaa explained.

Sanaa’s Home Instead CAREGiver job positions her perfectly to learn from her clients and add to the richness of her own life’s experiences. Sanaa said her clients are the source of a fountain of wisdom that they easily share.

“One client story that stands out is when a 99-year-old client told me about the experiences of living in Paris. It was great because we were able to converse in French a little bit. I could see how much my client’s face lighted up so brightly while speaking French and just the way the client’s sharing of experiences in Paris excited her,” Sanaa said.

“We shared a lot of similarities, and I could easily see how the client loved talking about the time in Paris. It was something that stood out to me. I’ll never forget the client’s facial expressions. The expressions were one of those very awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experiences forever stamped on my heart.”